Making Space for Creativity on Oxford Street

“For the City of Sydney to offer affordable space to for-profit creative enterprises as well as non-profit cultural organisations, we needed to develop a new model - one that found the ‘happy’ point between charging commercial rental rates versus the ‘empty spaces project’ model of no-cost or very low cost rental rates,” says Kate Murray, the City of Sydney’s Senior Manager, Culture. 

With the start-out rental rates ranging from $50 per week to $200 per week for some of the larger spaces, and no bond required, the program has allowed local creative businesses to enter into short term licence arrangements at affordable rental rates and move into Oxford Street. 

Belinda Brooke, Kate Murray, Dave Adamson and Juliet Rosser at Platform 72 GalleryKate Murray is clear that the project isn’t about subsidising space in the short or the long-term.

“It’s about giving people a leg-up,” she says. “A space starts out at affordable rent and then we work with tenants to rent increases over time.  That incremental increase will support entrepreneurs in building their business or arts organisations in expanding their programs and/or membership and increasing revenue stream over that time.”

Belinda Brooke, the on-the-ground co-ordinator of project says, “We were overwhelmed with responses to our first call-out for the spaces.”

The properties were offered through an expression of interest process with 52 applications received for the 16 spaces (since an addition office and retail space have become part of the program). Successful applicants were given a month to establish themselves in the spaces and the program was publicly launched by the Lord Mayor of Sydney (and champion of the program) Clover Moore MP in February 2012.

Spaces were originally offered on six-month leases with a six-month option, with the expectation that some of the businesses would fail during that time. But, with the success so far, the program is now looking at longer term arrangements while measuring the longer-term benefits for the City that realise cultural and economic benefits while meeting viable rental returns for the City.

Kate Murray says, “It’s been win-win for both for our tenants and for the City as both a way to support the re-activation of Oxford Street and to build a base of start-up creative enterprises for the future.”

Image Caption: Belinda Brooke (City of Sydney), Kate Murray (City of Sydney), Dave Adamson (Regeneration Excellence Centre, Wales) and Juliet Rosser (Curator, Platform 72 Gallery) at Platform 72 Gallery, 72 Oxford Street.